January 22, 2016
Spike in hedgehog admissions keeps carers at Secret World busy

Wildlife carers in the Burnham-On-Sea area are dealing with an influx of hedgehogs.

Secret World Wildlife Rescue, based in East Huntspill, has seen a seasonal surge in the number of the prickly creatures following the cold spell of weather.

Secret World volunteer Sue Hulbert, right, has been caring for the centre's hedgehogs for eight years and is currently looking after 26 hedgehogs.

Rescued hedgehogs are kept in an area known by the team as 'Hogwarts' on site when they no longer need treatment at the charity’s hedgehog hospital.

In Hogwarts there are rows of cages, each furnished with newspaper, a dish of food and fresh water, plus a box full of hay for the hedgehogs.

"We clean every hedgehog cage out daily, taking care not to disturb any hibernating hedgehogs," says Sue.

If she finds a hibernating hedgehog she leaves it well alone, just making sure there's fresh food and water in case the hedgehog wakes up. She has found a few more hibernating over the past week during the icy conditions.

Sue checks if a hedgehog is hibernating by sliding her hand gently under the hedgehog in its hay and feeling the temperature. One hedgehog here was rescued after getting caught in fencing in a children’s play area in Taunton, and was named Franklin by his 9 year-old finder.

Now he’s recovered and gained weight Sue says she is glad to find that he’s settled down to hibernate.

"In the wild a hedgehog’s normal temperature is about 35 degrees," says Sue, "but when they hibernate this drops to below 10 degrees, so I can feel by the warmth whether a hedgehog is hibernating or not."

"Their heart rate and breathing rate slow down too, and they use very little energy. The state of their cage is also a tell-tale sign – if they’ve made a mess and their food has been eaten, that’s a good sign they’ve been up and about!"

"Usually hedgehogs start hibernating in November when it gets cold and their food becomes scarce, but because it’s been so mild this winter they’ve been out and about until mid-January."

Many of the hedgehogs at Secret World were rescued in recent weeks after being found out alone during the daytime, which is often a sign there is something wrong since hedgehogs are nocturnal.

One of the hedgehogs Sue finds still awake is a young male who was caught by a dog in Clevedon in December. He’s now fit and healthy and up to a good weight, but although the aim is to get rescued hedgehogs back to the wild it’s too cold to release them at the moment, so this youngster will stay here for now.

Hedgehogs that are awake like this one have a thorough check up once a week. "We avoid disturbing them too often," says Sue, "because they need peace and quiet to encourage them to hibernate."

Each hedgehog is weighed and scanned with a microchip reader to confirm its identity, and put back into a clean warm box of hay with fresh food.

Over in the hospital room, a young hedgehog is under close observation after he was found just before Christmas by the side of a road in the daytime. Once he is well enough, he’ll move over to Hogwarts and with Sue’s gentle encouragement he’ll hopefully settle down to hibernate as the others are starting to.

Secret World is currently appealing for urgent funds to equip their new wildlife crèche, ready to care for baby hedgehogs and other orphans this year.


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